Youth engage in scientific thinking when developing opinions

Youth learn scientific investigation process when forming opinions.

Often times, science is viewed as something intimidating, involves complicated formulas and is done in a lab. When asked about science, a common reaction of people in science is, “Who, me? That’s not for me; I leave that to the scientists.” However, science is everywhere. Science is asking questions and discovering answers.

In her recent Michigan State University Extension article, “Informing youth about polarizing political issues,” Jackelyn Martin recommends three steps for youth to follow before forming an opinion. She emphasizes to read more than the headline, work to understand both sides of an issue and strive beyond political party lines. This is science! Youth are encouraged to engage in a scientific investigation process.

The Next Generation Science Standards identifies in its framework eight practices of science and engineering as essential for all students to learn. These eight practices are:

  1. Asking questions.
  2. Developing and using models.
  3. Planning and carrying out investigations.
  4. Analyzing and interpreting data.
  5. Using mathematics and computational thinking.
  6. Constructive explanations (for science) and designing solutions (for engineering).
  7. Engaging in argument from evidence.
  8. Obtaining, evaluating and communicating information.

When reading a political headline, youth ask, “Is this really true?” They develop a model of an opinion. As Martin recommends youth work to understand both sides of an issue, she is encouraging a scientific investigation process. She is encouraging youth to plan and carry out investigations, analyze, interpret and compile data, and then come up with a constructive explanation and engage in argument from evidence.

Science is everywhere. Forming a political opinion is one example where we need to help youth to use the scientific thinking process.

Michigan 4-H Youth Development strives to teach youth scientific investigation skills, critical thinking, problem solving and decision making skills. It offers a vast variety of programs where youth can practice these skills in a safe environment. 

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